It’s no coincidence that Gingrich, one of the most prominent politicians of the 1990s, is back on one of the biggest political stories of the 21st century. As one of his major purveyors of polarization in the 1990s, Gingrich later helped create the political environment in which his former President Donald Trump thrived.
In his heyday as chairman, Gingrich was arguably the movement’s most visible manifestation, but it was well beyond Washington. Many developments in US politics and culture in the 1990s set the stage for today’s radical and anti-democratic rights. In doing so, they represented a sharp turn from Ronald Reagan politics.
With a focus on winning a sizeable majority, Reagan appealed to white voters by bringing popular policies to the fore and developing an upbeat personality. But in his decade after his presidency, the right wing reduced its power, dismantled big tents, and sought to polarize voters. In the process, they developed the right-wing ecosystem and democratic skepticism that shape American politics today.
Three moments in particular stand out to help us better understand the current political crisis. Not all carry the same weight, but each contributes to a better understanding of how the politics of the 1990s helped erode the boundaries between right-wing extremism and mainstream politics. It is useful for
“Clinton Body Count”
The experiments he claimed proved that Vince Foster, the Clinton administration’s deputy White House attorney who died by suicide a year earlier, could not have committed suicide. The White House must have been involved in the cover-up.
A video released by a group calling themselves Citizens for Honest Government and distributed by right-wing preacher Jerry Falwell shows the Arkansas governor’s house where Bill Clinton served before his elevation to the White House. It was a ludicrous tale of corruption and crime at its core.
‘Politically Incorrect’ Darryl Gates
Both humor and controversy were key to the show’s popularity. As its name suggests, the panelists who appeared on “Politically Incorrect” used comedy to say things they believed people couldn’t or shouldn’t say. stage has created a unique genre-defying style of late-night television programming, fueled by cheeky, tongue-in-cheek right-wing commentary.
Young conservative commentators like Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter were a good fit for the show to take advantage of the comedy stage to deliver particularly provocative takes that mixed gasps and laughter. As part of the show’s roster of panelists, they often mingle with actors and comedians, each stirring the other’s expert insight as stars try their hand at critics and critics crack wisely. I got
During the show, Maher questioned him not about the abuse that took place under his watch, but whether America was too indulgent in crime. Maher turned to Gates and said, “Give me the baton.” The audience burst into laughter.
It was a moment that captured the significant political work the comedy show has done in presenting Gates not as a disgraced ex-officer, but as a criminology expert, while playing out police brutality for laughs. Concerns about excess power have been reclassified as just another sign of political correctness. showed how powerful
“Jackboot’s Government Thug”
Still, Bush’s resignation was significant. It drew the line between anti-government rhetoric used to sell deregulation and tax cuts and anti-government rhetoric used to foment violence against the state. It implied that Republicans had a responsibility to crack down on extremist elements, rather than absorb them.
At a time when Americans struggled to understand how extremist politics became mainstream in America, there was a time when a former Republican president condemned rather than accepted comparisons of federal agents to Nazi stormtroopers. It is useful to remember that even then, it is useful to note the limits of that accusation. The right was ready to embrace extremism even when members of its own party sounded the alarm.
The echoes bouncing between these stories and current politics are no case of history repeating itself. Rather, it serves as a reminder that the current political crisis is the result of his 1990s decision to embrace controversy, intrigue and extremism. As such, the current crisis is also a reminder that the growth of institutions, not just individuals, and that lasting change can only come from deep-rooted reforms of these institutions.